Dating is hard with or without a mental health condition. We have this overwhelming pressure to have the perfect body, perfect job, perfect social life and perfect mind. So you can imagine what it’s like when you have a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness sends a negative message to people. We are crazy! She’s a cheater! She’s unstable! So what is it like when you are actively dating with bipolar disorder? Lucky enough Teen Vogue contemplated the same question and reached out to me. I am so excited to share my interview with Teen Vogue. Check it out and please share.
This past Saturday, March 4th, I had the opportunity to speak with Rebecca and Joe Lombardo on their blog talk radio show Voices for Change 2.0 podcast. Prior to the show, people always ask me one particular question, “Are you nervous Hannah.” The part of me that always puts on a strong front answers, “No not at all. I am used to this by now.” The other part of me answers, “Hell yeah I am nervous.” The show was live, meaning anything I revealed stuck like glue. Luckily for me, Rebecca Lombardo eased my nerves days prior to the show. We talked about the podcast, but no specifics. It is better not to have the questions prior to a show like this. The thing that put me most at ease, was that Rebecca has bipolar disorder as well and has been sharing her story for years. For an hour we talked about our work as mental health advocates, the future of mental health and parts of our own story living with bipolar disorder.
On Saturday I was asked questions pertaining to my diagnosis of bipolar 2 and what it has been like coming forward. We discussed my experience in media and the importance of utilizing mediated platforms to spread awareness. We took people who called in with questions. One caller requested an answer to the golden question that I think many people hesitate to ask me. How is dating for you Hannah? Take a listen to the podcast to find out what I say.
Please follow this amazing podcast on their journey via Twitter @Voices4ChangeRJ.
In today’s society, with all the dating apps and social pressure, dating is hard enough right? Imagine having a stigmatized mental health condition on top of all that. In this video, I explain why dating with bipolar can be extremely stressful and what to do about it. Don’t mind the crooked face 😉
“She is delightfully chaotic; a beautiful mess. Loving her is a splendid adventure.”-Steve Maraboli
Dating is hard enough with or without a chemical imbalance. A lot of people are heavily influenced by stigma, and get it twisted when it comes to building a romantic relationship with a girl who has a mental illness. As someone diagnosed with Bipolar II, it is difficult to be vulnerable in love. I believe this is what she wants you to understand about her. Here are 17 things you should know about dating a girl with mental illness.
1. It is not expected of you to completely understand mental illness
She does not expect you to be a book of knowledge about mental illness or a licensed psychologist. Do not feel overwhelmed or frustrated because you cannot comprehend your romantic partners pain. Mental illness is complex, and takes time to fully grasp.
2. Mental illness does not define her
People with mental illness are professionals, educated, well traveled, and have close relationships. Do not be fooled by stigma! A person’s character and accomplishments should be recognized before their condition.
3. Listening is more important than fixing
Mental illness cannot be fixed. It is not a broken table or flat tire. She does not expect you to know how to ‘fix’ her problem. It is more important to have someone listen and be present, than constantly trying to give advice. Professionals are obligated to give advice, not you.
4. Do not blame all you relationship problems on her mental illness
Mental illness causes emotional behavior, however, not every mood change or situation should be blamed on it. It is important to eliminate mental illness from the conversation, and reflect on your own actions, as well as your partners.
5. She is insecure about her situation or diagnosis
Duh! Remember that the stigma of mental illness leads to feelings of nervousness, guilt and shame in any type of relationship, especially a romantic one. When it comes to sharing information, she fears being judged by others. Keep this in mind when trying to get to know her on a deeper level!
6. She is not pushing you away on purpose
This is a problem I am continuously working on! People with mental illness can say hurtful things or act like they don’t care, however, it is meant to protect you rather than to hurt you. Speaking from personal experience, it is difficult to trust others, and let people in to that part of my life. This fear causes me to reject my feelings, and push him away. This does not mean these actions should be condoned, and should be confronted at an appropriate time. An apology will follow shortly after, and if not she may just be a bitch!
7. She does not want you to suffer the consequences of her problem
Be honest about your feelings with her. Do not conceal your personal problems and feelings, due to the fear that she will get upset. Relationships are based off of reciprocity.
8. Her way of thinking is different
When you look at a painting of a lake, you may see water and dirt; when she looks at a painting she may see emotions and depth. Accept and embrace this creative way of thinking. Do not make her feel ‘crazy.’
9. Mental illness is a disease, and should be treated as such
If you believe mental illness is not ‘real,’ then stop reading this blog post and cancel your next date. Mental illness is a real disease, and should be treated like any other illness. It is true some people may experience situational depression, however, many people are in it for the long run. In order for a romantic relationship to work, you have to put your personal bias about mental health to the side and educate yourself.
10. She can be overly sexual or not sexual at all
People with mental illness can be overly sexual at times, or not sexual at all. It may be due to medication or a specific situation. Do not be offended or insecure! Be patient and it will ‘cum’ at its own time.
11. Sometimes she ignores her internal pain
Contrary to what people believe, people with mental illness are usually the ones helping others with their problems. People with mental illness may try to cover up their internal pain by exerting themselves on the behalf of others. Just remember, do not always be deceived by her smile.
12. She wants to tell others about her situation
The stigma of mental illness keeps people to be very quiet about the topic. This means she wants to explain her diagnosis to friends and family at her own time. It is a topic that has to be dealt with very gently. Let me tell you, I immediately know when I walk into a room if it has been said already. The half smile, wide eyed, and stiff posture makes it obvious.
13. Like any relationship, there will be challenges
A major part of a romantic relationship is overcoming obstacles. Do not freak the moment difficulty arises in your relationship. Two chemically balanced individuals with no problems with depression, or any type of disease, still face challenges in their relationship. Always remember to separate mental illness from reality. Overcoming these challenges will only make your romantic relationship stronger.
14. It is not doomed from the start because she has a mental illness
Do not go into the relationship with the constant thought that it is going to fail. Everyone, with or without a mental illness, has issues to deal with. She can add a unique element to your life. It is difficult, and takes a strong person to deal, but believe that it is worth it!
15. Support is the best way to help her, NOT trying to save her
I have faced this issue in many relationships. My potential partner finds out about my diagnosis & BAM he rips open his shirt with a big ‘S’ on his chest. A great way to unravel your romantic partner is by educating yourself about mental illness, and getting involved in the conversation. You are accompanying her on this journey. Take time to read up on mental health or volunteer at an event pertaining to it. You might learn something, and be one step closer to getting in her pants;)
16. Sometimes she will withdraw or be distant
There is no doubt that at certain points she is going to be mentally distant from you. This has nothing to do with her love for you. It means one of two things-she do not want to bother you with her problems or she needs a moment to reflect. If it continues, there is the option that she is just not that into it anymore…sorry!
17. It is not all negative
The stigma of mental illness causes people to assume that the relationship will have more negatives than positives . This is not true! People with mental illness can contribute more positives to your life than negatives. They are capable of adding color to your life. There will be challenges, and difficult moments, however, I believe that you have to take the good with the bad, especially when it comes to love.
Spread Color. Stop Stigma.
If you are in need of support, please go to my ‘Support Page’. You are not alone.
“It’s the world we live in Hannah, face it” is what was said by my best friend when I told her I refused to get on a ‘dating’ application on my phone. After a couple beers, she persuaded me to download one. As you are aware, like with any social media, the profile picture and fio come first (fake bio). The process begins…
Her: “You need a tagline”
Me: “okay…Don’t leave home without it”
Her: “Hannah thats the fucking American Express tagline”
…damnit I forgot she was in the marketing profession.
Me: “Okay…Do you enjoy going to the circus? Well if your answer is yes, you wont regret buying a ticket for this show (winky face)”
Her: “They will totally think your slutty. No we are going to say…college student who loves a good IPA beer and having fun with friends.”
Me: “Um…I like not love IPA’s and I’m fucking allergic to cats”
END of PART I
Okay so here is the deal, I am not saying I want to write, “My name is Hannah. I love writing my blog about having Bipolar II, drinking the occasional bottle of wine and taking selfies to boost my self esteem,” but what was written was so freaking cliche. The thing is, it is hard for me to put on an act. I do not like to talk about surface shit, because it is not exciting. “So do you like animals?” “Don’t you enjoy this weather?” No, I want to know, “If you could have your dream job what would be?” “What is your shoe size?” I guess this is a problem, but the moment someone views my primped up, photoshopped profile picture (not that it is not already), and reads the ‘about me’ they have created an image of what they want me to be, and I never live up to that expectation. Im not a trophy wife, I am good glass of whiskey on a summer day at dusk. I cannot go into a situation comfortable knowing that the only reason a person wants to meet me is because of my looks, the fact that I like IPA beers and cats aka I am a hot alcoholic cat lady who might be easy after a few 10% beers.
I got on the dating app and began the ‘swiping’ process. “Swipe left, no swipe right” was the conversation for a whole 125 seconds (I counted).
Me: “I cant judge a person based on their picture, would if they are the love of my life but were having a bad hair day.”
Her: “Come on Hannah, just have fun with it.”
Fun? Okay so here is what it comes down to. I have a disease that a huge chunk of society is critical about. “I cant swipe you because your not good looking” is translated as, “I cant hire you becuase you are mentally ill,” “I cant marry you becuase you are mentally ill.” I live with a mental illness that gets ‘swiped’ by society everyday. Dating applications make us think that because someone didnt swipe us, we are not good enough. We try so hard to appear as someone we are not, and it ends up backfiring when a person gets to know you. The you that gets too drunk sometimes, or likes to sing to Backstreet Boys in the shower; the you that isn’t religious or is overly religious, the you that wakes up and looks like Lindsey Lohan…the mugshot version; the you that has a mental illness that can make life a rollercoaster at times. My life can be complicated and I hold onto love being uncomplicated, natural and not judgmental.
My best friend went to the bathroom and I deleted the app, looked to the sky and said, “thank you lord for making me insane enough to be sane.” Sorry guys, no swiping for this bipolar betch ass any time soon.